By Edi Osborne - CEO Mentor Plus Did you drop the ball on marketing during tax season? Every May I hear accountants lament that they should have done more marketing while they had clients right in front of them. The reasons cited are pretty much the same year after year and, frankly, come May 1st they don't even matter. What is important is that you have a strategy to recover from your marketing fumble.
Pick five of your clients to call. When you call them say the following, “Since I saw you during tax season, I have been thinking a lot about you. I would like to get together to talk about some important financial ratios that need some attention. How about next week?” Set the date and relax. NOT!
Once you have a date set, it’s time to recover the fumble. How?
Step 1: Put on your Google Goggles and do a search on your client’s industry. Spend 30 minutes reading about important trends and recession recovery strategies your client’s industry association is writing about. Yes, that’s right. Most industry associations are way ahead on this topic. They are constantly looking for, and writing about, ways to help their members (and their industry) grow stronger. (note to self: bookmark this site in client notes and print out any relevant info to give to client.)
Step 2: Review your client’s financial statements to identify a correlation between industry trends and your client’s financial outcomes. Is there a correlation? Whether there is or isn’t, you now have something important to discuss with your client.
Step 3: Meet with your client and share what you found or didn’t find in Step 2. Then sit back and listen. Let your client talk about their concerns and expectations for this year. While your client is talking take some notes. On the left side of the paper write ISSUES. On the right side of the paper write GOALS. Ask clarifying questions like: tell me more, help me understand, what else should I know about this? (I know an accountant who actually has a large whiteboard in his office that he fills up with notes whenever he meets with a client.)
Step 4: After listening carefully, repeat back to your client what you captured. If need be, ask more clarifying questions. Once you feel (and the client has agreed) that you understand the issues and goals, ask the client to circle the goal that is most important to them. Then look at the issues to see which ones could be impeding progress toward the goal. Discuss this with the client and have them draw a line between them.
Step 5: Take out your RED marker and put a large question mark in the center. Then ask the client what their plan is for addressing the issues. Then shut up. Wait. Let the client find the answer. If the client has an answer, ask them how they are measuring their progress toward achieving the goal (if they aren’t, you can help them). If the client doesn’t have answer, you can suggest that you set a meeting with his/her team to conduct a SWOT analysis around the problem so they can create an action plan to deal with it.
Step 6: If the client says no thanks, they can deal with it themselves, you are going use what I call the “gracious refusal.” You’ll say, “Is it okay with you if I follow up with you on this in 30 days to see how you are coming along?” Odds are, the need for outside help will be self-evident long before the 30 days are up.
Bottom line: Stop lamenting! You have a window of opportunity during the month of May to close the gap between what you should have been doing during tax season and what you can do to fill up your off-season engagement schedule. Don’t worry about whether you are going to get paid for the meeting. If you focus on having a consultative dialogue with your clients, something good will come from the discussion. Even if the discussion doesn’t yield anything immediately, be patient and follow-up. You can never love your clients too much! One way or the other, good client karma will find its way back to you.